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Paul Skenes allows first homer as pro in seventh start for Indianapolis


Paul Skenes allows first home run as a professional in seventh start for Indianapolis

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May 5, 2024

With growth comes growing pains, even for the best pitchers in baseball.

Pitching on four days’ rest for the first time as a professional, Paul Skenes allowed his first home run since the Pirates selected him with the first pick in the draft last July, but he limited the damage and helped lead Triple-A Indianapolis to an 8-3 victory over Buffalo on Sunday.

“The biggest thing is just the learning experience,” Skenes said of throwing on four days off. “Doing the five days is a little different, so I’m just trying to understand the routine and get used to it.”

The home run, a solo shot in the fifth by Bisons outfielder Will Robertson, was one of two runs allowed by Skenes that day in 4 1/3 innings, but the 6-foot-6 right-hander was so dominant this year that the performance only increased his season ERA to 0.99 over seven Triple-A starts. Skenes, who gave up two hits and a walk in the first quarter, finished his start with three hits, two walks and four strikeouts, throwing 66 pitches, 40 of them for strikes.

MLB’s No. 3 prospect has allowed just four runs — three earned — on 17 hits and eight walks in 27 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, striking out 45 in running of road.

After allowing a run on the first Sunday, Skenes found his rhythm, going through the next nine Buffalo batters without allowing a runner on base. However, in the fifth, the Bisons managed another run against the former LSU Tiger – with the help of a challenge that went against them.

On a 3-1 count against Robertson, who led off the fifth for Buffalo, Skenes painted to the inside corner with a 98.6 mph fastball, but the pitch was called a ball, leading the catcher to ‘Indy Grant Koch to challenge. The replay revealed that the pitch had cut into the strike zone. After Robertson put his shin guard back on and returned to the plate, Skenes served his second-slowest fastball of the season (97.9 mph) and Robertson sent it 421 feet over the wall in center for his sixth home run of the year.

Skenes’ velocity was noticeably off during the inning, with his four slowest four-seam hitters of the season coming in five pitches against the last two batters he faced before being relieved. The big right-hander bounced back from the home run to retire the last batter he faced on a grounder to third.

Skenes still eclipsed 100 mph with his fastball on nine pitches in the outing, averaging 99.3 mph, the second-lowest mark in his seven starts. He also threw 61 percent of his fastballs for strikes, the lowest strikeout rate with his device so far this year.

“It was a little inconsistent,” Skenes said of his execution in the zone. “At the beginning of the match it was really good, towards the end of the match I started to work a little. Maybe trying too hard on some pitches, but I think it was good overall .”

Execution is the 21-year-old’s sole focus on the mound, “throwing the right pitch in the right place at the right time.”

As Skenes’ pitch count increases and his hits pile up, fans hope to see the flamethrower in Pittsburgh in the near future, but he isn’t letting the outside hype affect him.

“This is all cool, but it’s just noise,” Skenes said. “(I) have to get back to what I do well and just execute against hitters, because without that, everything else goes away.”



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